To Krk

Roadside monument And so the day on which the return leg of the great Contrary Roadtrip was to begin arrived. Since this was the whole purpose of my trip to Croatia – Vicky would be driving home alone otherwise – I was looking forward to it but my excitement was balanced out by the sorrow felt by Vicky and Clare at their parting after four years of being housemates. The friendship will endure but this morning marked the end of a significant chapter in both of their lives.

Given this (and the aforementioned need to cycle three women through one bathroom) it was inevitably a late start so the decision was made to make use of the motorway rather than the coast road in order to ensure that we made our accommodation for the evening in good time. Obviously this came at a cost since our continental cousins are far happier with the idea of road tolls than we Brits are (perhaps it has something to do with the lower taxes levied on petrol?) but at less than a Kuna/mile (about 10p/mile) it was a price we were happy to pay for cruising along at up to 130kph.

Road Formations Not going along the coast meant going up and through the mountains – literally. Lots of tunnels, the longest 5.8 klicks – I’d say kilometers but Vicky gets annoyed at me saying klicks ;) – and all lit much better than the one at Dartford, eased our passage from sea level up to over 2000 ft – at which height there was evidence of recent snowfalls.

To say that for parts of our journey we were the only living souls for kilometers in any direction would be to understate how barren it was in those places. This emptiness was offset by some occasionally spectacular views but we felt that the local plod probably wouldn’t be amused if we stopped to take pictures – Sod’s Law meaning that one would show up just as we had pulled over on to the hard shoulder to do so – so they were taken on the move.

Rock Formations Things became a lot more interesting once we left the motorway and joined the road down to and along the coast for the last hour or so to the bridge over to Krk. This was a road made for driving, especially as we descended from the mountains, and I’m quite jealous that it was Vicky and not I who got to throw the car around on it. The scenery was even better than that on the motorway and we did pull over to take pictures on several occasions as we made our way along it.

The view back towards the Krk side of the bridge The wind had been picking up throughout our journey and by the time we reached the bridge was probably strong enough to be named something ludicrous by the Met Office. As I type it is howling around outside of our accommodation quite loudly and by the time we got here we’d realised that we should only have one car door or window open at a time in order to mitigate the effects on both the Clio and ourselves.

Krk is very much a place which will only come to life during the tourist season from what we have seen so far – like parts of the coast we passed. Lots of apartments which are obviously holiday lets so are shut up and lifeless. Think Daily Fail tales of villages where many of the properties have been purchased by Londoners as second homes but on a much grander scale. The owner of this apartment is, we suspect, very grateful to be able to rent it out for a night at a time of year when they might otherwise not do so.

The downside is, of course, that very little is open so we are making do with the traditional software engineer food group (crisps and pizza) and the rather less tradition one of red wine whilst trying to cope with the lack of wi-fi for almost the first time since either of us arrived in Croatia (rare is the coffee shop or service stations that doesn’t have it). More detailed planning of tomorrow’s route through Slovenia and in to Italy (as well as the posting of this blog) will have to wait until we find somewhere that is connected to the world…

Spitters

The time had come to meet up with the roadtrip properly so, after a quick hop over to the Dalmatian Coast (disappointingly on a jet rather than a prop plane), I was joining the chaos which is always evident any time you get Clare and Vicky in a room together.

Arriving in Split also allowed me to meet up the luggage I sent on ahead with the cackle twins to avoid the hassle of dragging it though airports. Hello hair spray and hand cream, I missed you in Zagreb.

A view of Diocletian's Palace, Split, at night A perambulation through the city as dusk fell on Thursday was followed by a lovely dinner at the restaurant just around the corner from Clare’s new home. The menu was, as befits a port city with a fishing industry, mostly fish but with a couple of options for weirdos like me who don’t get on at all well with seafood. All washed down with a recommended bottle of red.

Brač coastline With the Friday weather threatening to be very pleasant, certainly when the Sun was out, the decision was made to visit the island of Brač so, once we were all ready (insert jokes about three women and one bathroom here), we managed to make it down to the harbour for the 1230 crossing in reasonable time. We fetched up in the town of Supetar (a corruption of St. Peter) and walked along the coast for a bit, admiring just how clear the water was, before taking some time to sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet – until we lost interest and decided to retire to a bar for a beer.

Upon returning to Clare’s, Vicky and I eventually (and separately) got around to putting together a rough plan of how we get ourselves back to Le Havre for the ferry back to Blighty next Friday. Given that we were doing this independently of each other, although working to a rough guide of how long we wanted to spend in the car each day, the rough routes we sketched out weren’t that different.

First stop on the way home is the island of Krk

One night in Zagreb

Zdravo.

That is, I’m assured by Google Translate, ‘hello’ in Croatian – and since no-one has attacked me so far for using it I’m going to assume that they’ve not screwed up.

Since I’m (eventually) joining a roadtrip started by a couple of very contrary people it only makes sense to join in the fun so things began in suitable fashion by eschewing the recommendation to arrive at the airport two hours before my flight in favour of about half that time. After all, airport termini are tediously dull places. In the end, thanks to my procrastination in leaving home and the slowness of the Piccadilly Line, I arrived less than 30mins before scheduled departure. Just about enough time to subject myself to the inevitable security theatre, visit the ladies and call the necessary banks to let them know I’d be using my cards in foreign places so please don’t decide to cancel them on me.

“When are you leaving the country, Ma’am?”
“In about 15 mins.”

Organised? Sometimes.

So, Zagreb.

Room Artwork To get a better flavour of the place I’d chosen to participate in what everyone but Frances refers to as the ‘sharing economy’ and found myself a room via AirBnB in what turned out to be the area referred to by the locals as the lower town. Certainly none of the buildings in the area could be described as new and the exteriors where often quite shabby and decorated at the lower levels with graffiti. My room (and the apartment in which it was located) was though perfectly acceptable given that all I wanted was a place to sleep.

Armed with a map and a few suggestions on places to visit (and eat at) from my hostess I set out to explore the city. The goal was to wander around and pop my head through the door of anywhere that seemed interesting.

Zagreb Cathedral This turned out to involve looking around the Archeological Museum, including admiring the somewhat out-of-place 3D printer amongst the Copper Age exhibits that was pumping out replicas of one of the pieces for sale in the shop; admiring the architecture of the cathedral; spotting what I assume to be the local equivalent of blue plaque for Nikola Tesla; and the Museum of Broken Relationships – a home for those pieces that remind you too much of former relationships (family or romantic), good or bad.

Dinner (and this has to be mentioned given that the gastronomes I’ll be joining up with have barely written about anything else) was in a place that was certainly popular with the locals – something which I always take to be a good sign. Unlike them, I chose not to troll someone who will remain nameless (waves at Andy) by taking pictures of each course but I will say that both the pastry stuffed with cottage cheese which I started with and the slow cooked veal which followed it were absolutely lovely.

Nikola Tesla Sadly I was rather knackered after all the travelling so any exploration of the city nightlife was out of the question and an early (by my standards anyway) retirement was in order.

Thursday dawned cold and wet so, in the absence of all common sense, I went for a walk around the Botanical Gardens. Since I know about as much about flora as I do about art, this didn’t involve a lot of stopping to admire particular plants – but since none of them are in flower yet there wasn’t a lot to admire.

A bit of research had unearthed the fact that Zagreb apparently has a mushroom museum so I decided that was a quirky enough to warrant a visit once I’d had breakfast (croissants and a hot chocolate that was more melted chocolate than warm milk and cocoa powder) seen the cathedral on daylight and been inside. Sadly I didn’t manage to find it, even having looked it up on Google Maps and asked at the local tourist information office. Instead I depressed myself by wandering around the Torture Museum and its reminder that sometimes all that has changed is that we’ve become more sophisticated in our methods of inflicting violence upon our fellow ape descendants…

Next stop: Split.

Freedom’s Price

Never one to miss an opportunity to suck up to the bully, Labour scion Dan Hodges barely manages to allow the bodies of those murdered in the Paris attacks on Friday to cool off before using his Torygraph column to call for us to welcome even more state intrusion in to our lives by supporting the monstrously illiberal Communications Data Bill (aka the Snooper’s Charter). This will, he believes*, ensure that London isn’t itself the target of such an atrocity.

He offers no evidence as to why we should do so, just the emotive plea of someone who thinks that he can gain security by sacrificing the civil liberties of 65m or so people.

Since his only attempt to justify this piece of useful idiotry when confronted on twitter was to repeatedly pretend that all the security services wish to do is have a look through people’s browsing history – as if that isn’t bad enough given the state’s propensity to try to hang you for what they find on your hard disk if they can’t get you for what they initially wanted – I thought I’d deliver a cold hard dose of reality to him and anyone else who thinks that this piece of legislation is a great idea…

The brutal truth, although you might not like it very much, is that the price of living in a liberal democracy is that occasionally we will be the victims of an outrage such as we saw in Paris on Friday night.

No, that doesn’t mean I want to see people murdered in cold blood. Nor does it mean that I disapprove of sensible precautionary measures that may prevent incidents (such as not allowing those with mental health issues to have access to firearms**).

What it does mean is that I am an intelligent, grown-up human being who accepts the possibility of it occurring rather than someone who is so scared that something bad might happen to me that I wish to sacrifice my freedom in order to be swaddled in the dubious comfort blanket of the police state.

Capisce?

* Whilst, no doubt, furiously working himself in to a state of pleasure at the thought of Theresa May in black leather standing over him praising him for this loyalty to the cause.

** Related to this is the need to stop kicking meaningful mental health reform in to the long grass.

At the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Field of poppies

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

In the last 12 months the following have died whilst in the service of their country:

  • Roberts, Geraint
  • Scott, Alan
  • Campbell, Michael
  • Sawyer, Jamie
  • Warrender, Charles
Image taken from pixabay

List of British military deaths courtesy of the BBC

Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium

From the person who brought The Cornershop comes “Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium” – a sex shop stuffed with items made solely from felt. If you wish to visit though, you’d best hurry as it closes on Saturday 17th October.

I went on the opening night – as I wanted to catch-up with the artist’s father – and took some pictures.

Licensed Sex Shop

Clarissa elsewhere

At Libertarian Home commenting on the Ashley Madison business.

Funding Auntie

Following on from Sunday’s leak/pre-announcement, yesterday saw the actual announcement of a host of changes to the licence fee.

In summary:

  • The licence fee will survive for at least another 5 years
  • The cost of the licence fee will rise by inflation, ending 7 years of price freezes
  • The government intends to alter the scope of the TV licence to include catch-up services
  • The BBC is take over the cost of subsiding free TV licences for those 75 and over

I’m not, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, a fan of the licence fee, considering it to be nothing more than a tax on watching live television. I’d much rather see the BBC funded though one or more of advertising, subscription or micro-payments.

For myself, I’ve not paid the tax since the analogue signal was switched off in my area in 2012. Having a (now) rather ancient, in technological terms, CRT set and no way to pick up the digit signal via it, I made the decision to stop watching and save myself £145.50 a year.

Like many I am though known to watch programmes via catch-up, an entirely legal (at present) approach which was last week blamed by Auntie for costing it £150m and 1,000 jobs. As if it has a right to that money.

If the government does go ahead and remove this ‘loophole’, I shall either stop watching anything on iPlayer altogether or use a VPN on the odd occasion when I do want to watch something. Either way, the BBC won’t be getting a penny out of me (directly at any rate) unless I buy some of its shows on DVD.

The sneaky, and perhaps downright nasty, move though is lumbering the BBC with the costs of subsiding the licence fee for those 75 and over. Previously this ‘freebie’, introduced by Gordon Brown in 2001, has been borne by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is estimated to currently cost the taxpayer £631m.

Sneaky because it gets it off the government books and means that the BBC has to swallow the cost yet nasty because it is not the choice of the BBC to provide this subsidy and there is no way for them to withdraw it without finding themselves getting it in the neck from a lot of people and organisations.

If the government (rightly or wrongly) wishes to subsidise something it should pick up the tab itself (with taxpayer money) rather than pass the cost of doing so on to another party which has no power to end it.

By her actions shall you know @charlottechurch

Welsh choir girl Charlotte Church has declared that she would be happy to pay a higher rate of income tax ‘to protect public services‘:

“I have paid all my tax since I was 12 years old, and I would certainly be happy if the rate was 60% or 70%. I wouldn’t move away, I wouldn’t have an offshore account.

“That would be totally fine, for better infrastructure and public services and more of a Scandinavian model, which I see as far more progressive than the way we are, I would be absolutely fine with that.”

Leaving her utter ignorance of the ‘Scandinavian system’ to one side, if she really is quite happy to pay even more tax on any earnings then all she has to do is send a cheque for whatever amount she deems sufficient to HM Treasury, Unit 1, Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ and tell them where she would like it spent.

Anyone care to give me odds on her actually doing this? Long, aren’t they?

What Charlotte really means is that she’d prefer it if the government stole that proportion of income from all of us, including her.

Until she puts her hand in her pocket and voluntarily pays tax at a rate she’d impose on me then she is nothing more than yet another left-wing blow hard who refuses to put her money where her mouth is until forced to do so under threat of violence.

General Election 2015

And so the race is run. The dullest election campaign in (my) memory has finally drawn to an end and now the polling stations have opened. The public, those that haven’t died of boredom that is, will now proceed to turn out in their droves (about 6 in 10 or so anyway) at the local school, church or other selected venue over the course of next 15 hours in order to select their preferred lizard. Meanwhile the party leaders will show up at their polling stations at some pre-arranged time so that they can have their picture taken with their partner whilst they cast their ballot before retiring home to chew their finger nails and hope and pray that they have convinced enough people that their party is the right option.

I, for the first time since 1997, will not be bothering. Not bothering to such an extent that this time around I’m not even on the electoral register. Sadly for the local candidates this means that they will be deprived of the opportunity to scan quickly over anything unpleasant I might otherwise have said about them come the count.

If this vacuous election campaign has proved one thing, it is that fixed term parliaments might sound good on paper but are, in reality, a damn stupid idea and should be dispensed with ASAP. Better a short, sharp campaign than one which goes on for 5 years.

THe only thing left to find out is how close the opinion pollsters are to reality – and that is why I intend to spend this evening in a pub giving my liver and kidneys a thorough workout. Perhaps by this time tomorrow I will have a better idea of how extra lube I’m going to need for the next 5 years in order to cope with the depredations the next government inflicts on me.